My own Malgudi….

The Hoysala temple at the Sanagama
Image via Wikipedia

As we get off the train at Bhadravati railway station, still groggy eyed, my husband and I trail behind our friends who seem to be the local experts. It’s pitch dark on a foggy morning and I’m shivering even in my sweater. I follow the others who confidently walk over train tracks to reach the platform. Despite my fears we’re not run over by any oncoming train at this time. When we get out of the tiny railway station and into auto-rickshaws to head towards our hotel, I get my first look of the town. It’s quiet on the streets with barely any signs of activity. I am reminded of RK Narayan’s Malgudi – a sleepy town with dusty roads and little boys running amok in shorts and men in dhotis huddling together in a small cafe drinking coffee. The sound of a buffalo snorting in the background and the faint cry of bicycle horns as the milk and newspaper delivery boys are dashing through the streets completes the picture.

On reaching the hotel we are greeted by a surly youth who is impatient to hand over our room key. After a quick breakfast around the corner where I’m conscious of the furtive looks thrown our way by other diners (do we have a label that reads city slickers) my husband and I decide to explore the town. “You can check out the Hunne Godda, a hillock with a small temple that serves as a popular picnic spot”, recommend our friends. “The Lakshmi Narasimha temple is also very ancient…it’s in the old town”. When my husband looks a bit bemused, the waiter adds his two cents. “You mustn’t miss Koodli -this is where the Tunga and Bhadra rivers meet, very sacred spot!” We decide to visit the old town that’s a few blocks away.

Our auto rickshaw driver begins his monologue as soon as we set off, rattling off the town’s history and the tourist spots in neighbouring towns. In less than 10 minutes we are at the gates of a huge compound with a temple inside that looks incongruent in this part of town amidst old homes and narrow lanes. The sign at the gate mentions that the temple is being maintained by the archeological department of the state. There is a deserted look at the temple and we seem to be the only ones in this area. My husband is in no hurry to go inside and is admiring the architectural beauty of the temple. The lathe-turned pillars are ornamental and unique to the Hoysala school of architecture. As I admire the detailed attention given to the contours of the sculptures, my husband is trying to gauge how old the temple structure is. The giant Ganesha idol in front of the temple near the steps catches my eye. “Banni, banni!” The priest beckons to me – he is all smiles. I hurry inside eager to see the main deity of the temple. The idol is magnificent – the energetic eyes, the fierce look and the leonine features on the face, the strong contours of the body inspires fear, wonder, and humility all at the same time. My feet are stuck to the ground as the priest completes his routine. It’s almost as if time stands still and I am caught in a maelstrom of emotions. “Let’s head back, you need to rest before the concert.” My husband is already ambling towards the exit. Later that evening as we head outside town vast stretches of farmlands greet us. There’s a hint of rain and I welcome the fresh breeze. Suddenly I spot a temple in the midst of a field. There’s a giant statue of saint Tyagaraja in the open hall before the temple. I am here to celebrate his music, and highlight the musical genius of this prolific composer who left such a rich legacy in the world of classical music. As I listen to the twitter of birds in the background, and feel the gentle breeze blowing across the fields, I’m inspired by my surrealistic surroundings and start singing.

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